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Talk of peace doesn't slow flow of blood, rockets in Gaza and Israel

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- While politicians and statesmen talked peace Tuesday in Cairo, Jerusalem and New York, Israeli soldiers battled Hamas fighters on the streets of Gaza. Overhead, more rockets streaked toward Israel.

 

One struck near the country's main international airport, prompting airlines around the world to suspend service.

 

Fifteen days after Israel began hitting Gaza targets with airstrikes, and later a punishing ground offensive meant to locate and destroy tunnels used to move supplies and fighters, Palestinian health officials said at least 630 Palestinians had been killed and nearly 4,000 wounded -- some 70% to 80% of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

 


 

Twenty-eight Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians have been confirmed killed in the conflict. An Israeli soldier was killed Tuesday morning in a firefight in Gaza, the Israel Defense Forces said.

 

Uncertainty remained over the fate of another Israeli soldier, claimed as a captive by Hamas after the armored personnel carrier he was traveling in was ambushed on Sunday. Six other IDF soldiers died in the ambush.

 

On Tuesday, the Israeli military released the soldier's name -- Sgt. Oren Shaul -- saying, \"We are still working to identify his body.\" Israeli media reported that the soldier was missing and presumed dead.

 

Here's what's happening on each front:

 

Peace talks

 

Bearing orders from U.S. President Barack Obama to push for an \"immediate cessation of hostilities,\" U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Tuesday with Egyptian and Arab League officials in Cairo, Egypt.

 

\"We've had constructive meetings thus far, and I intend to be continuing our conversations through today and into the next days in order to work to see if we can find a way forward, a way that ends the violence and then addresses the underlying causes of this crisis,\" Kerry said.

 

That approach mirrors one taken by Egyptian and Arab League officials, who have urged Hamas to accept a cease-fire, then enter dialogue to discuss its broader concerns.

 

Hamas rejected the first cease-fire proposed by Egyptian officials, saying negotiators hadn't consulted the group's leaders. They want a broad deal including the release of recently detained Palestinians and the easing of border restrictions.

 

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a collection of rockets that had been fired into Israel.

 

Ban called the evidence \"quite shocking\" and called for an immediate end to the attacks. But he also chided Israel over its military campaign, saying it \"will not increase Israel's stability and security in the longer term.\"

 

\"My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: Stop fighting, start talking and take on the root causes of the conflict so we are not back in the same situation in six months or a year,\" he said.

 

Netanyahu, however, argued there's little Israel can do to satisfy Hamas.

 

\"What grievance can we solve for Hamas?\" he said. \"Their grievance is that we exist.\"

 

On the ground in Gaza

 

United Nations workers trying to aid Gaza residents found themselves stuck between the warring factions.

 

On one hand, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees found rockets hidden in one of its vacant Gaza schools, the second such discovery since the fighting began.

 

On the other, a spokesman for UNWRA told CNN that for the second day, shells \"believed to be from the Israeli military\" hit a girls school housing 300 of the estimated 118,000 civilians being sheltered by the agency.

 

One child was injured and the building badly damaged when the \"explosive ordinance\" hit the school Monday afternoon, spokesman Sami Mashasha said. When U.N. officials went to inspect the damage on Tuesday, the building was struck again, Mashasha said.

 

Meanwhile, dozens of Palestinians died Tuesday in the fighting, Palestinian health officials said. The death toll rose from 604 early in the day to 630 by evening.

 

The Israeli military said it hit more than 187 targets overnight, most of them in Shaja'ia, a neighborhood east of Gaza City near the border with Israel. The IDF says Hamas uses the residential area as a \"fortress for its weapons, rockets, tunnels and command centers.\"

 

In one skirmish, the IDF said, paratroopers encountered a squad of militant fighters who were later hit with an airstrike. Several militants escaped in a civilian ambulance, the IDF said.

 

Troops also uncovered 66 openings to 23 tunnels, six of which were destroyed, the IDF said.

 

The flood of people seeking refuge from the violence is straining UNRWA's resources and threatening a humanitarian disaster, the agency said.

 

Uncollected waste and unexploded ordinance were growing problems, the agency said.

 

Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti accused the Israeli government of carrying out a massacre.

 

\"This has to stop,\" he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Monday.

 

The United States had pledged $47 million in humanitarian aid for Gaza, Kerry said Tuesday.

 

On the ground in Israel

 

Shortly after noon in Washington, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered airlines to stop flying to Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv for up to 24 hours, after a rocket struck a home nearby.

 

At least one flight, Delta Flight 468, diverted to Paris prior to the FAA order. The airline said it was temporarily suspending service \"to ensure the safety and security of our customers and employees.\"

 

Other airlines, including Korean Air, Air Canada, and KLM also suspended service.

 

The flight disruptions were the result of a rocket strike in the town of Yehud, which destroyed a house Tuesday morning. No injuries were reported.

 

The strike was one of 41 the Israeli military said had been launched out of Gaza since midnight and more than 2,000 since the military operation began.

 

Israel's Iron Dome defense system intercepted 11 of the rockets, including one over Tel Aviv and seven over the city of Ashdod, the Israeli military said. Others fell to the ground harmlessly outside of the city of Be'er Sheva, according to police.

 

Elsewhere in the world

 

-- The U.N. Security Council held a debate on the situation in the Middle East on Tuesday. \"With no regard for human life, Israel, the occupying power, continues to slaughter entire families,\" said Riyad Mansour, the head of the Palestiian permanent observer mission to the United Nations. He went on to read the names of 44 children, ranging in age from 8 months to 15 years, killed in the fighting.

 

David Roet, Israel's deputy permanent representative to the U.N., told the council that international aid dollars had gone to Hamas to build tunnels designed to infiltrate Israel and inflict casualties on its civilian population.

 

\"Imagine what it is like to fall asleep wondering if a terrorist is tunneling under your home or to wake up and wonder if your children will be safe on their way to school,\" he said. \"Just yesterday, heavily armed Hamas terrorists emerged from a tunnel 200 meters from a kindergarten.\"

 

-- In Lebanon, the militant group Hezbollah reached out in support of Hamas, raising questions about whether Israel might have to fight on two fronts.

 

-- A day after a pro-Palestinian protest in Chicago, demonstrators there rallied in support of Israel outside the Israeli Consulate.

 

Ian Lee reported from Gaza City. Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta and Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Karl Penhaul, Ali Younes, Kareem Khadder, Ben Wedeman, Atika Shubert, Yon Pomrenze, Tim Lister, Richard Roth and Salma Abdelaziz contributed to this report.

 

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